The U.S. military has “conducted multiple ground operations and more than 120 strikes in 2017” to cripple the abilities and operations of al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) in Yemen, including jihadi recruiting, training, and using ungoverned spaces to export terrorism across the world, the American military reveals.
Soon after taking office, U.S. President Donald Trump intensified the military effort against the Yemen-based al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
U.S. airstrikes targeting AQAP, by mid-March, had already surpassed those that occurred during any year under former President Barack Obama.
Now, U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), charged with American military activity in the Middle East, reveals that U.S. troops are once again operating on the ground against a weakened, but menacing, al-Qaeda.
Lt. Col. Earl Brown, a spokesman for U.S Central Command (CENTCOM), said, “U.S. forces also expanded counterterrorism operations in October to encompass both AQAP and ISIS. This parallel targeting effort is required to prevent ISIS-Y from filling the vacuum left by a diminished AQAP footprint or influence in the region.”
AQAP, once known as the most potent al-Qaeda branch, capitalized on the chaos in Yemen and the international community’s near singlemindedness against ISIS to become stronger.
Although the group has reportedly suffered significant losses since U.S. President Donald Trump took office, “AQAP is one of the terrorist groups most committed to and capable of conducting attacks in America, as assessed by the intelligence and defense communities, while intelligence estimates indicate that ISIS-Y has doubled in size over the past year,” warns CENTCOM.
“U.S. forces have enabled regional counterterrorism partners to regain territory from these terrorists – forcing them to spend more time on survival,” said Col. Brown. “These operations have helped to illuminate terrorist networks, making intelligence-gathering, subsequent targeting and follow-on operations increasingly productive and effective.”
He added, “Every strike, every raid, and every partnered operation advance the defeat of these violent extremist organizations. U.S. forces will continue to use all effective measures to degrade the groups’ ability to export terror.”
In 2015, deteriorating security conditions fueled by the Iran-allied Houthi rebels forced U.S. troops to evacuate from the country.
The U.S. military repeatedly argued that it had retained its ability to combat terrorism inside Yemen, but al-Qaeda grew stronger, and ISIS established a footprint.
A U.S.-assisted coalition led by Saudi Arabia joined the Yemen war against Shiite Houthis while largely ignoring the operations of their fellow Sunni members of ISIS.
It was not until May 2016 that U.S. forces returned to Yemen and began targeting the resurgent al-Qaeda jihadists once again.